The Contra Costa Times put out a disgusting piece yesterday afternoon which accuses HALO caretaker Renee Franceschini of inappropriate actions with a minor. This was clearly a reckless piece by the Contra Costa Times on an article that was a hit piece at best while trying to protect HALO’s new Board.
In speaking to the former HALO president, its caretaker, two board members, and many shift leaders and volunteers, one thing is clear is the Contra Costa Times story is flat out wrong. I’d encourage Wayne and Joyce Sanderson to step down from HALO immediately. The six people I spoke to will go under oath to highlight just how false these accusations are from the Times and Sanderson.
The piece by Rowena Coetsee crosses over the line and the comments by Wayne Sanderson are grossly inaccurate. There is no disciplinary complaint filed, nothing on record, nothing in the Board minutes but those now leading HALO, and it appears they waited until recently to disclose Ms. Franceschini’s behavior.
This is almost like the West Coast version of Penn State. If Wayne and Joyce Sanderson knew of this “inappropriate behavior”, why did they not call the police? Should they now be considered as bad as Joe Paterno? The truth is, they are using this “inappropriate behavior with a minor” as an excuse to drop Tamera Reed as President of HALO’s and oust the caretaker all in the name of not making he and his wife look bad in the process of the takeover.
“The article makes me out to be a pedophile, this is terrible,” stated Renee Franceschini. “I’ve done nothing wrong. How can they make me sound that terrible, you have got to be kidding me. When the volunteering was over, I had permission and they (parents) knew. ”
Before taking on the HALO caretaker position, Franceschini stated she was asked to move here. She has taught cosmology, worked in a salon, I was the East Contra Costa County family outings coordinator for the mothers club, a parent liaison for Mt. Diablo School District and a rotary club member.
“A person doesn’t take this accusation lightly,” said Franceschini. “This is serious, and can bring harm not only to me but to that family. And it is against the law with what they are doing. The only thing I’m guilty of if helping the poor animals that were here and actually doing too much work.”
Before I get into some of the rebuttals offered by two HALO volunteers (shift leaders) and those close to the situation, let’s first go through the article to provide just how reckless Ms. Coetsee and the newly elected H.A.L.O. president Wayne Sanderson acted.
The letter presented to her sister, Renee Franceschini, that night asked her to vacate the Second Street facility that the organization is leasing from the city no later than Aug. 20 and offered her $500 in moving expenses if she leaves by Tuesday.
In speaking with Ms. Franceschini, she stated she has a 16-month agreement with HALO which began last October where she could move into HALO House and live.
“My contract was a verbal contract for the length of the lease, I changed my whole life because of this. I worked my butt off for HALO for 8 months. I questioned it and questioned it. They gave me assurances and I committed. I moved in Oct. 30 of last year. I have not broken any rules, I had no one live with me, I rarely had visitors,” stated Franceschini.
This bit of information might have been useful to readers in terms of the caretaker agreement. This has been verified by Tamera Reed who as president agreed to the agreement and was approved by the Board at the time.
“I was promised to have my own place, and that I could live a normal life… Not a life where everything you did was under a microscope,” said Franceschini.
Similar to the above statement we can look at the photo caption which makes Franceschini out to be a “squatter” which is poor journalism.
The photo caption below reads, “A caretaker at the facility has turned into a squatter where the nonprofit is leasing a building leaving less space and resources for the volunteers and animals to use.”
This is the yellow journalism which is what the Contra Costa Times is known for as the article clearly stated Wayne Sanderson gave notice this week to be out by August 20. Clearly, using the term squatter is the wrong word and is an attack on Franceschini–I hope the Times has a lawyer readily available.
Some directors are concerned about Franceschini allowing teenage shelter volunteers into her living quarters after hours, he said, fearing that she was creating the appearance of impropriety and exposing the nonprofit to litigation.
Ms. Coetsee fails to mention which directors are “concerned” or how many are “concerned”. More importantly, just because their is an appearance of impropriety doesn’t mean its reality. Franceschini disputes this claim in the Times and calls it an “exaggeration of the situation, bogus and over the line.”
Using common sense, how can a 24-hour a day organization even have “after hours” anyway? What exactly does that mean or does the Times or Sandersons consider after hours? It’s just a poor statement on their part to make a bigger issue out of something that was never there to begin with.
“When the entire issue came up, I was fully transparent with HALO and let them know about the situation. I had full approval from all parties. I know the mom and dad, I had permission, what is so wrong about it?” stated Franceschini.
According to Reed, the minor in question is a family friend who they have known for a long time and who has gone on family vacations with Franceschini. Reed claims this is a distortion of the facts to smear Franceschini.
Reed also disputes Sanderson’s account in the Times saying she failed to take action.
Reed states that board meeting minutes show (which she has copies) that Directors never asked her to talk to her sister about after-hours guests and it’s only one board member who has the problem with the minor. Moreover, their has never been a complaint in writing or discussion with the Directors.
“Wayne (Sanderson) told my sister that they will ruin me and that is what they are doing,” said Franceschini.
Linda Fournier Defends Francschini
I received a phone call followed by confirmation from email by Linda Fournier who expressed major concerns about the Contra Costa Times article. She explained that she worked directly with Joyce Sanderson at the Sandersons home since 2011 and was a shift leader.
Fournier explained that she had major concerns about the timing of the allegations. It was never brought up to shift leaders or staff and never any questions asked as if the Contra Costa Times were the first to report it as opposed to going to CPS or the police.
” I am concerned that if the board has proof and cause about any improper behavior or concerns happening inside Halo house, that it was not shared with the staff at Halo House immediately,” said Fournier. “I would think we would be the first to be notified of any concerns and be questions regarding behavior and the accusations between Renee and the boy”.
She went onto explain that has shift leaders, they are ultimately responsible for the health and safety of the volunteers and by not speaking up until now, the timing doesn’t make sense and reflects badly on the organization all because of hidden agendas.
“HALO’s new leadership has put all of us shift leaders in a very precarious situation, knowing that we are responsible for the youth that we supervise, and I think the board needs to be accountable to us and the parents of our volunteers for the statements they made concerning this matter, ” said Fournier
She wrote in an email following our conversation the following information:
I am deeply saddened and shocked at the comments and accusations being made. Let me point out, that in the whole time I have volunteered not once have seen 3 of the board members ever work at the Halo House or come in. And 2 others I haven’t seen in months. The ones who did not vote Tamara out, Gigi, and Treasure have been in and around Halo house, and I am sure they are very surprised by the Boards allegations. How they speculate what goes on in Halo house and what is very disturbing to me.
If allegations were made by another shift leader why weren’t they brought before the board? Why, if they were so concerned about the youth’s behavior , weren’t all of the shift leaders notified immediately that there may be a potential problem that we should be aware of. I find this to be a total surprise, and the now I think the board members should be made accountable for not notifying us right away if they have proof.
I know and work with most of the Lead shift leaders and many youth volunteers and never has anyone said anything to the contrary that they had a problem with Renee’s behavior, or they have had a problem with the boy in question.We have nothing but respect for all the hard work and kindness she has shown all the youth volunteers.
Not at any time, have I even seen any other guests visiting Renee at her home or have witnessed anything but professionalism and love for the dogs. In contrast, I have heard Renee criticized about her personal life by a board member, including the clothing she wears. They had negative things to say even, about her fixing up the garden on the side of her yard, from a dump to a beautiful little place we could use during adoptions. They have been attacking her for things that should be none of their business, and has has been scrutinized since the day she moved in.
As for the files disappearing, I know nothing about that, but they were completely aware that the parents were notified, that their children’s shift leaders would not be there after Thurs. The parents were also told that Tamara had been removed as president.
What they did not take into consideration is Tamara has worked very closely with the children training, and working shifts with them, and all of us shift leaders had a very good relationship with the children on our shifts.
They were not told, NOT to come back to volunteer, but the decision was left up to the parent and the child. When the article mentions that a few of the volunteers left, it should be noted that most of them left, because if that were true HALO would still be operating like it should be.
Let the truth come out and the board members of HALO be accountable for their actions.
In speaking with Fournier, she was clearly upset with the Contra Costa Times, Wayne Sanderson and Rowena Coetsee. She called the story a manipulation of reality and it never happened because she would have been the first to speak up against the accusations.
Machado Defends Franceschini
I received a phone call from Becca Machado shortly after the relase of the Times article and she wanted to set the record straight about how incorrect the Contra Costa Times piece was. Ms. Machado was a shift leader and her kids often participated in helping the organization.
Here is what she said.
“I have been volunteering since Dec. 2011 If I had seen or suspected funny business I wouldn’t have sat there and let it continue with a minor and an adult. I would not allow that. The claim is ridiculous. I can’t believe someone would utter the words that Renee and this child were in that position,” said Machado.
“On Tamera and Renee’s behalf, I want to go on record that I never once suspected any type of relationship in that manor stated by the Contra Costa Times between Renee and a minor. I thought they were mother and son. I never thought they were a couple. After months went by, I found out that she was the boy’s nanny,” explained Machado. “For someone to say they were having a relationship or acting inappropriate is hurtful. I’ve become friends with those two and knowing the 17 year old boy, he wants to become a pastor and minister youth. I don’t see that happening ever. I can’t get over someone would say something so negatively about them like that. The Contra Costa Times story was wrong.”
Ms. Machado further explained that the mission of HALO has now been lost based on non-profit politics and it’s sad. The mission of HALO is about the animals and nothing more and that is what is frustrated by what the Contra Costa Times is reporting and what the Sandersons claim as reality which is false.
She fears the organization will not recover from these lies.
Brentwood Press Correction
While Reed will stay on as a HALO volunteer, several volunteer shift managers at HALO House stepped down from their roles last week, and as a result, youth volunteers have been hesitant to return to the adoption center.
According to Reed, the above statement is incorrect as she stated she is no longer volunteering with HALO. She confirmed that she has not told any volunteers not to help out with the animals, she is also not encouraging youth to join HALO but is encouraging them to assist with other local organizations since HALO no longer has any trained staff who are familiar with working with youth or animals.
The article also says a handful of volunteers quit. That is also incorrect as all the adult shift leaders from HALO quit, however, she is unaware if any youth are still volunteering.
City of Oakley
Finally, kudos go out to the City of Oakley City Manager Bryan Montgomery for choosing to stay out of the non-profit’s business. As long as HALO pays it’s rent, the city is not to get involved. Same goes for the City Councilmembers. While some argue the City needs to step in, the City is doing exactly what it should be doing which is nothing at this point in time.